SCIO briefing on the cooperation between China and the int'l community in fighting COVID-19

The State Council Information Office (SCIO) held a press conference Thursday morning in Beijing to introduce the cooperation between China and the international community in fighting COVID-19. March 28, 2020

Nanfang Metropolis Daily:

As the COVID-19 epidemic further extends its global reach, and poses a growing threat to the health security of Chinese citizens overseas, my question is what measures the Chinese government has worked out to care for and help them? Thank you.

Luo Zhaohui:

This is a good question. Lately, media from home and abroad have published many reports on the Chinese government's care for overseas Chinese. The Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Chinese government are solicitous about their safety at all times. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) instructed Chinese embassies and consulates to do their best to provide good consular protection and help overseas Chinese deal with the epidemic.  

First, we enhanced communications with the governments in countries where our embassies and consulates are stationed, and urged them to take measures to effectively protect the safety and health of overseas Chinese and students. Through telephone conversations with foreign leaders, such as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, President Xi Jinping expressed his hope that those countries would take measures in safeguarding the health, safety and legitimate rights of Chinese nationals including those studying there. Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi talked about consular protection every time he had a phone conversation with his counterparts. Chinese embassies and consulates keep in close and regular touch with health, education, police and immigration authorities of the countries where they are stationed and have urged those governments to take measures to cope with practical difficulties Chinese nationals face in diagnosis and treatment, visa extension and continuation of studies, etc. and are firmly opposed discriminatory words and deeds of any kinds. They also keep close contact with local designated hospitals and provide timely assistance for Chinese nationals. 

Second, we keep close touch with overseas Chinese, so as to gain a very real-time idea of their needs and difficulties and guide them to protect themselves against the virus. The MFA and Chinese embassies and consulates receive a high volume of calls for help every day and have taken many measures such as increasing hotlines and creating WeChat groups to provide better services and respond to the concerns of Chinese nationals. In less than two months, the MFA hotline 12308 has manually received 70,000 calls, almost triple that of the same period last year. Ambassadors and consul-generals of China in countries such as United States, Britain, and Germany talked online with overseas Chinese nationals, especially students, during a live broadcast, and provided authoritative answers to questions all worried about and eliminated unnecessary anxieties. The Chinese Embassy in Italy organized our medical experts to broadcast live videos to introduce prevention knowledge and provide authoritative consultations for overseas Chinese and students.  

Third, we increased assistance to help overseas Chinese cope with their practical difficulties. Chinese embassies and consulates have been promoting domestic online medical and health consultation platforms among overseas Chinese nationals and provided them with free online consultation and psychological counseling services. We helped infected Chinese nationals and those with a symptom of fever access timely treatment, and followed up with checks on their condition. We also sent disease control and overseas Chinese affairs working groups from provinces with large population of overseas Chinese to those hardly hit countries to visit Chinese nationals there. After passengers on the virus-affected Diamond Princess cruise ship were quarantined, the Chinese embassy in Japan did its best to provide consular assistance for Chinese nationals.  

Fourth, we care about the special groups including overseas students and safeguard their health, safety and legitimate rights. Most overseas students stay abroad without company of their families and are very young, and they have poor capacity of self-protection. Chinese embassies and consulates attach great importance to their practical difficulties in study, accommodation, and visa extension. Chinese embassies and consulates coordinate local Chinese and enterprises to give them assistance in dining and shopping. Chinese embassies and consulates in Britain, France, Italy and the United States mobilized resources to provide local overseas Chinese students with a "health package" including necessary epidemic prevention materials and guidelines. Some Chinese embassies and consulates set up special hotlines to answer questions of parents of overseas students. 

We will follow the situation closely, and make all-out efforts to maintain the health and legitimate rights of overseas Chinese. I would like to take this opportunity to remind our overseas compatriots once again that there have been a number of confirmed cases in which travelers got infected on their way home. It is recommended that people should not travel to high-risk countries and regions in accordance with the advice of the World Health Organization, as well as the safety warnings and travel guidance issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, and avoid unnecessary international travel, reduce mobility, stay at home so as to keep yourself safe and healthy.

There are some concrete numbers that I would like to share with you. Among the confirmed imported cases in China, 90% are Chinese passport holders. Our priority right now is to prevent imported cases. Some of them were infected when they were abroad, but they weren't aware of it. However, some had known of their infection, and still came back. It shows that they have trust in their motherland. However, the trip has also aggravated their illness, and caused risks to all the passengers on the same flight. Among the 90% of Chinese passport holders, 40% are students. These figures tell us that traveling abroad is highly risky. We understand that some overseas students are eager to get back home, but we hope that they and their parents will weigh the pros and cons carefully and make the right choice. Recently, some Chinese ambassadors, in accordance with advice provided by the Ministry of Education and related authorities, have answered questions in terms of whether overseas students should travel back home. Under the current circumstances, staying where they are can avoid cross-infection while rushing back home or being blocked halfway triggered by border control measures adopted by transit countries. It will also avoid possible impact on the study or visa issues. It is also consistent with the professional suggestion offered by the WHO. 

China always provides strong backing for overseas Chinese citizens. Governing on behalf of the people is the purpose of the Chinese government. When overseas students have difficulties, they will seek help from the government. It shows they have trust in the government, and it is also the responsibility of the government to meet the expressed needs. We have repeatedly instructed our embassies and consulates overseas to make all-out efforts to provide overseas Chinese citizens, overseas students in particular, with consular protection and epidemic prevention assistance. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Education will continue to follow the relevant requirements and deployments made by the CPC Central Committee and the State Council, and care for the overseas students as well as provide good service for them and help them address difficulties. Thank you.  

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